MY Top 10 Games That I Play With My Wife


On a recent Dice Tower Episode (#189), Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer each made top 10 lists of the games that they play with their wives.  As I was listening, I couldn’t help but think, “Hey!  I play games with my wife too!”, so I talked to Gwen over the last week or so and we put together this list. 

Before I jump into it, though, let me set the stage a little bit.  Gwen is not the stereotypical “non-gamer wife” by any stretch of the imagination.  She also wouldn’t exactly claim the title of being a true “gamer”, but she probably falls a lot closer to that side of the spectrum than the other.  Back before we had kids and when my game night was young, she was actually a regular member, even though it stressed her out a little to have to learn new games all the time.  She is also rather competitive (more than I am, anyway) or at least very perfectionistic (meaning that it’s probably more about her doing well rather than about her beating me).  But she is also extremely intelligent, so she’s usually able to pick up on games and do well with them very quickly (though not always quick enough to satisfy her perfectionistic needs).  

We like a lot of different games, from some light fillers all the way up to some deeply strategic games.  My favorites to play with her are probably those that have a little less direct competition, because I can do without the marital discord that it sometimes causes.  But otherwise, we mostly just appreciate a good game, and occasionally the peaceful moment around the house when we can get it to the table.

The list itself is actually a combination of both Gwen’s and my favorites.  So hopefully it reflects the games that have meant the most to us as a couple over the last few years.  And interestingly enough, none of the games are actually 2-player-only games. 

So, without further ado, here’s my Top 10 Games That I Play With My Wife:

10) The Pillars of the Earth – A game of Pillars with Gwen was the subject of my very first play report here at GamerChris.com, and we’ve played it a number of times since then.  I wrote a review of it early on, but have almost completely changed my mind about it since then.  We’ve always had fun with it, and I like it enough that I hope to get it back in our regular play rotation.

9) Peloponnes – This is one of the newest games on the list, and I was frankly a little surprised that Gwen likes it as much as she does.  Peloponnes is a game where you will not make it through unscathed, and both of us have been quite frustrated at times by the complications that it throws at us.  But it’s still compelling and quick enoughto keep us interested and coming back for more.  As I mentioned in my review, I think that the 2-player game couled probably benefit from loosening up the auction a little bit, but it’s still a lot of fun either way. 

8) The Settlers of Catan – We don’t actually play a lot of Settlers any more, but for a while it was our most-played game.  We usually used Nick Borko’s 2-player variant in our games together, which I think works really well.  Eventually, though, Gwen got tired of the random screwage from the dice, and our interest waned.  Recently, however, she’s mentioned getting it back to the table, so maybe it will find some new life. 

7) If Wishes Were Fishes – I think I remember bringing home the Hypermind store copy of this game for our first play, and both of us immediately fell in love with it.  As I mention in my review, “Fishy Wishy” (as we affectionately refer to it) has a depth far beyond what it’s cartoony presentation would normally indicate.  There is a really cool little market-manipulation element to the game, and room for at least 2 or 3 viable strategies that you can pursue.  And since Gwen and I tend to take different paths, it’s always cool to see which one will reign supreme!    

6) Cartagena – Cartagena is one of my favorite fillers anyway, but I think that it really works well as a 2-player game.  It becomes a lot more strategic than with more players, because you can better predict and account for the actions of your single opponent.  But the game is still light and quick enough (and has enough randomness with the card draw) that it never becomes a brain-burny slog.     

5) Goa – Goa is also very new to us, but it has already jumped way up in this list.  Not only is it a great game with lots of different strategy to explore, but it also has just the right amount of interaction between players.  You still have a little struggle against each other in the auction, but most of the game is all about the choices you individually make in advancing your development tracks and spending your actions.  I actually rated it second on my individual list, and really hope that it continues to be a regular part of our gaming together. 

4) 10 Days in… – Numbers don’t lie, and when I considered that we’ve played the games from this series a combined 74 times, I realized that it had to be way up here on this list.  The 10 Days system isn’t all that deep, and it certainly relies a lot on luck, but it also consistently provides an interesting challenge in a very short time.  And once you know what you’re doing, you find that there are ways to mitigate the luck of the tile draws and make it a bit more strategic.  The majority of our plays are with the original 10 Days in the USA (probably because we’re most familiar with it and its geography), but I think that Asia (our second-most-played) is the best mechanically.  We own the entire series, though, and love to introduce it to newer gamers.  I’m planning on writing a review of the whole series sometime soon, but I also want to try out the 20 Days Around the World variant (which combines all the games except for USA) first.

3) Ticket to Ride – Ticket to Ride may be the single most important game on this list.  Mostly,&n
bsp;it’s because this is the game that got Gwen interested in modern boardgames.  It also holds a really special place in our hearts because it was the main thing which occupied our minds throughout the weekend when we had our miscarriage.  But along with all that, we also still continue to have a lot of fun playing it together.  More often than not, we play using the “Mega Game” from the 1910 expansion, but I also like to play with the Switzerland map quite a bit.   


2) Tobago – I got Tobago for Christmas last year, and we played it 8 times in the first 7 days we had it.  This was Gwen’s overall #1 game on her personal list, and it continues to be a lot of fun every time that we play it alone or with others.  The only downside that I see in the game is that we tend to play this in a very cutthroat manner.  You don’t necessarily have to play it that way, but unlike Ticket to Ride, which you can play very much as multi-player solitaire (which we usually do), Tobago really pushes you to get involved and meddle with what your opponent is doing.  I don’t need to go into a lot more detail about it though, because you can always check out my review for more of our thougts about it. 

1) Pandemic – As many of you probably already know, Pandemic is my favorite game.  Thankfully, Gwen likes it a lot as well, and over the last couple of years, we’ve played it upwards of 40 or 50 times together.  In addition to all of the reasons that I love the game itself, I think what makes it really perfect for couples in particular is that you completely avoid any chance of hard feelings during and after the game.  It gives you a chance to work together against an outside force, to watch out for each other, and to win or lose as a team.  And at the same time, the game always plays out differently, especialy with the addition of the On the Brink expansion. 



A shot from my 100th game of Pandemic, in which Gwen and I lost by 1 action…

And while the games above are our all-time favorites, they are by no means all that we play together.  Here are some of the other games that we’ve played at least a time or two (it’s not an exhaustive list, though):

The Princes of Florence
Vasco da Gama
1960: The Making of the President
Dominion
Qwirkle
Doodle Dice
To Court the King
FITS
Bohnanza
Forbidden Island
BattleLore
Mr. Jack
Blokus
The Settlers of Catan Card Game
Roll Through the Ages
Through the Desert
Master’s Gallery
Ricochet Robots
7 ate 9
Pivot
Carcassonne (on the iPod only)
Samurai (iPod and “for real”)
Colosseum
Agricola
The aMAZEing Labyrinth
Tier auf Tier
Archaeology: The Card Game
Catan Dice Game
Dream Factory
Fresco
Reef Encounter
Taluva
Arkadia
Escalation!
Kingdoms
Ticket to Ride: The Card Game

25 Comments


  1. Good article and a good list to use for Christmas presents this time of year. And that’s a very long list of games you’ve played with your spouse. Equate that to time and it shows that you spend a lot of time together and that’s just awesome.


  2. I’m telling you, Chris, my partner and I are getting hooked on Agricola. It’s an utterly fantastic 2-player game once you get past the learning curve. Just enough interaction to realize you’re playing against each other but not too nasty. I’m glad I finally gave in and tried this game. It’s really worth it.

  3. Chris Norwood

    Yep, one of the coolest things about the boardgaming hobby is that it’s something she and I can share.  I’ve been a gamer forever, but she was never interested in roleplaying or the collectible games I played before.  Now, though, we play games together at least a few times a month.

    By the way, have you seen my actual Gift Guide that I recently published?

  4. Chris Norwood

    The ‘Gric is also the favorite couples’ game for my friend Britt and his wife, and I think that Gwen would like it as well.  I’ve mentioned it to her a time or two, but it seems like every time she mentions it and shows some interest, we don’t quite have the time to launch into it.  It’s certainly on the short list of games that I want to introduce to her. 

    Heck, let me just spell out that list a little here as well.

    So, in addition to getting some of lesser-played games back to the table (looking at you, BattleLore), here are Other Games That I Want to Try With My Wife:

    • Agricola
    • Carolus Magnus
    • A Castle for All Seasons
    • Castle Panic
    • Chicago Express
    • Citadels (she’s played the game before, but I want to try the 2-player variant)
    • Coloretto
    • Cyclades
    • Defenders of the Realm
    • Entdecker: Exploring New Horizons
    • Hansa
    • Hansa Teutonica
    • Key Harvest
    • King of Siam
    • Macao
    • Notre Dame
    • Saint Petersburg
    • Small World (again, as a 2-player game, since she’s played it with 3 before)
    • Steam
    • Summoner Wars
    • Tales of the Arabian Nights
    • Toledo
    • Traders of Carthage
    • Tribune
    • Twilight Struggle

  5. Nice list! My wife and I recently sat down and tallied up the number of new games she’s played with me in the past year, and it came out to around 29! I’m so proud. She is really digging Pandemic, and it may very well be her game of the year.

    As for your “want to play” list, I can only comment on a couple. First, I adore Small World, but even I have to admit that it just doesn’t have the same oomph with two players. I really only like to break it out with 4 or 5 players, because then everyone can engage in some diplomacy and you can team up to eliminate the “punk factor.”

    Summoner Wars is pretty awesome, though, even though I sometimes get frustrated with the system. As an old-timer in miniature wargaming, I’m used to being able to maneuver and plot patiently, but most of the time, Summoner Wars is far more tactical than strategic. Movement is limited, and you can almost forget flank attacks. This usually results in my wife kicking my butt because I’m making things overcomplicated. However, despite all that I just keep coming back for more. There aren’t many games like that out there, so I consider Summoner Wars a success.

  6. Gwen Norwood

    Hey Honey, I finally had a chance to read the whole article today over lunch while Corinne was relatively occupied in her bouncy seat. I really appreciate your taking the time to put this article together. I do love playing with you even though we have very few moments these days due to our little ones (and how tired we are when they finally go to bed). I hope we can play more often when we get a little more used to the routine.

    Thank you for your patience with me. I know you asked several times for my opinions when we were discussing this article, and you often had to wait several days for my feedback. I love you.

  7. Chris Norwood

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Sweetheart!  I hope you looked over the list of uplayed games above and have some ideas of what you’d like to try next…

  8. Adam K

    Ever play Lost Cities (the card game, not the board game)? This is Ellen and I’s go to game for a gripping, 15-minute, tension-filled game.

  9. Chris Norwood

    Yeah, I picked it up (since it’s the stereotypical “game to play with your wife/GF”), but it never did much for us.  The actual card play is pretty cool, but the fiddly scoring bothered her.  I’d try it out again with her, but I lent my copy to someone about a year ago, and I don’t know if they’ll ever give it back or not… 


  10. Chris,

    I totally agree with you on Lost Cities. Although my wife likes it well enough, it is the one game I own that consistently raises my blood pressure. I don’t deal well with games that involve too much of a luck factor, unless they specifically state as such and make it a key factor in gameplay. Lost Cities touts itself as this grand battle, and it’s really nothing more than a little strategery and a lot of luck. I’d say it’s in my bottom five of all time.

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    Good choice! Personally I adore Pandemic – the unrealized desire to become a doctor must be the reason.

  12. Marc P

    Chris, I am looking for a game to get my sister and her husband for Christmas. They also have a 6 year old girl, so I was thinking something they can play together and perhaps teach her down the road. I was thinking Agricola or Ticket to Ride would be good (maybe too complex for children?). Any thoughts would be appreciated (and are they at Hypermind? I will probably be getting it at the store so if you can recommend something I can find there that would be awesome. Thanks.

  13. Chris Norwood

    Agricola is way too heavy for most children and most people that aren’t experienced boardgamers, so I definitely wouldn’t recommend it as a “first game” for anyone.

    Ticket to Ride is a really great choice, though.  It was the game that got my wife into boardgames, and it continues to be one of her favorites.  Kids can also usually pick it up pretty well by age 8 or so. 

    Another couple of games to consider are Pandemic and Forbidden Island, which are very similar cooperative games.  Forbidden Island is less expensive and a little simpler, so it’s a bit more family-friendly.  I personally like Pandemic more (it’s my favorite game, in fact) because it has a lot more depth and a more attractive theme (for me at least), but I’d probably recommend Forbidden Island more for people that aren’t very experienced with modern boardgames.  One of the big advantages with coop games is that you can sort of “play together” and help younger kids (or just new players in general) with what they should do.

    10 Days in the USA is pretty good as well.  It’s very light, but Gwen and I continue to enjoy it and have given it as a gift several times.

    For something completely different, Sorry Sliders is also pretty cool to consider.  It’s a dexterity game where you flick or push pawns down a track into a scoring area, and which  

    If you’ve missed it, you can also check out my gift guide for this year (and last year, too) for several other ideas.  I’m pretty sure that all the games I’ve mentioned here are currently in stock at Hypermind.  Sorry Sliders is available almost anywhere (Target and Wal-Mart, for example), Pandemic is in Barnes & Noble, and Ticket to Ride is at the Go! Calendar Club store in the Tanger Outlets in Mebane.    


  14. Great choice with Goa, I’m telling you! I used to play it with my husband, but then he tricked me into playing Heroes and now I’m addicted to that game, too.


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  18. This couldn`t get any better. The five-versus-five-player map sounds like the utter challenge for any gamers` community. I am truly excited to hear about that. I have been on my own lately, chilling at home with my Jewel Quest which I am still loyal to, but I could quite well engage in such a competition you are teasing us with. It sounds very good, actually. I should exercise my skills for the Holiday Challenge 2011.


  19. Thanks for the post! My wife and I try to get in a few games a week (when we have time after the kids are in bed!. Denae does not like to lose, thankfully she is very smart and catches on quickly. We are slowly getting into new games as we can, here are a few we have been playing lately:
    Morels
    Jaipur
    King of Tokyo
    Dominion

    We have come to appreciate the small, short 2 player games especially when our time is limited in the evening.

  20. Chris Norwood

    Cool; I’m glad you found this article!

    I’d love to try Morels and Jaipur sometime, but my wife is the only person I play 2-player games with, and we haven’t found as much time lately to sit down together.

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